For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org
Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, email@example.com
(Irvine, Calif., June 9, 2016)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center demands that the state of California provide a parolee in Orange County, Calif., with a secular alternative to the religious substance abuse program he is required to attend.
Taylor Bast, the parolee who identifies as a nontheistic Buddhist, was informed by his parole officer and a unit supervisor that he must attend a religious substance abuse program as a condition of parole. Bast was given the option of attending three religious programs, such as Yellowstone Recovery, which incorporates aspects of Alcoholics Anonymous. Bast twice requested a secular alternative, but he was told that he must either attend a religious program or face repercussions, including arrest and jail time. Both the parole officer and the unit supervisor failed to provide secular alternatives. They also demanded that Bast provide written documentation confirming his Buddhist and nontheistic worldviews.
“There is no need for the state of California to only offer religious treatment programs when secular alternatives are available. Numerous secular programs, such as SMART Recovery, use science and sound research, not faith, to effectively treat substance abuse issues,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Instead of treating substance abuse, the state of California is pushing a religious agenda that disregards the needs of nonreligious and nontheistic individuals.”
“The state is unconstitutionally coercing an individual to attend a religious program, as well as endorsing religion and discriminating against nontheists,” said Monica Miller, senior counsel at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “By failing to provide a secular alternative to these religious programs, the state of California is violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
The American Humanist Association insists that the state allow Bast to attend a secular program and provide written assurances that he will not be required to attend a religious program as a condition of his parole. The American Humanist Association also demands that California make secular treatment options available to anyone required to complete a substance abuse program in the future.
The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center’s warning can be viewed here.
Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.